IBM tool tests ‘Big Data’ students’ preparedness

IBM has, in the past year, increasingly pushed universities to create more courses, programs and degrees that would help fill the 4.4 million jobs “Big Data” will create by 2015.

The tool will measure cognitive ability and verbal reasoning, along with other student traits.

Now, the company is asking: are students in these programs actually prepared?

Only one-third of Big Data job are expected to be filled over the next two years, and IBM unveiled an online tool Nov. 12 to assess whether the current crop of Big Data students are up to the challenge of helping change that.

The tool was announced during a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Big Data event in Washington, D.C.

Called the IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, the tool examines several predictors of success including basic understanding and competencies, as well as less tangible things like assertiveness and “social assuredness.”

The assessment will take the form of an online test, broken into four sections.

The first three will measure cognitive ability, verbal reasoning, and logical reasoning. The fourth section will consist of a series of questions focusing on key competencies. The test will take between 30 and 40 minutes to complete.

Universities with Big Data programs obviously already utilize exams, quizzes, and other forms of assessment, said Jim Spohrer, director of Global University Relations Programs at IBM. IBM’s test isn’t just about what was learned in a specific course, however, Spohrer said.

“What we’ve tried to do with this assessment is create something useful at both a general and higher level,” he said.

Educators can connect on Twitter with the hashtag #eCNBigData. See Page 2 for more details on IBM’s big push for Big Data.

The assessment tool is based on “the most essential competencies and traits that indicate whether a student not only has the ability to analyze data, but can parlay it into effective business strategies for growing revenue, preventing risk, deepening customer engagement, and even saving lives,” IBM stated in its announcement.

With every day that passes, another 2.5 quintillion bytes of online information is created.

This data can be used to find patterns in student learning, track consumer trends, and help doctors better diagnose patients, Spohrer said. The explosion of information created through this increasing amount of digital interactions has led to what some experts refer to as a “Big Data skills gap.”

To help close the gap, IBM has partnered with more than 1,000 universities as part of a Big Data initiative that provides learning materials, guest lectures from IBM experts, and analytics software.

The assessment tool will at first be available to some of these universities, including George Washington University, Northwestern University, and The Ohio State University.

“It’s really a quick task that allows students and universities to understand their readiness,” Spohrer said. “We see it as a compliment to existing assessments that will hopefully get more people excited about this area and recognize their strengths and weaknesses.

Follow Jake New on Twitter at @eCN_Jake, and join the conversation with #eCNBigData.

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